The Sawdust House

Written by David Whish-Wilson

San Francisco, 1856. Irish-born James ‘Yankee’ Sullivan is being held in jail by the Committee of Vigilance, which aims to rout the Australian criminals from the town.

As Sullivan’s mistress, seeks his release and as his fellow prisoners are taken away to be hanged, the convict tells a story of triumph and tragedy: of his daring escape from penal servitude in Australia; how he became America’s most celebrated boxer; and how he met the true love of his life.

Praise for The Sawdust House

‘Vivid and ambitious in its storytelling and multi-layered in its thematic interests …I never hesitate to recommend a David Whish-Wilson novel, but the Fremantle author’s latest is — for my money — his best yet.’ West Australian

‘Whish-Wilson is a storyteller, there is no greater praise.’ Bruce Pascoe

‘It is both a stylish retelling of one extraordinary life and an investigation into the truths that slip through history’s net, sinking to depths only imagination can plunge.’ Australian Book Review

‘This book is a departure from his usual style of book for Whish-Wilson but one he pulls off perfectly. A great story, superbly written, especially for lovers of historical fiction.’ Good Reading Magazine

‘Whish-Wilson has crafted a complex and compelling tale of a little-known figure in Australian and American history. The book is compelling reading, and its form and characters maintain a hold on your attention until the very last page. Sullivan’s story is poignant and full of fire, and is worth every second of your time.’ Westerly Magazine

‘He is a consummate writer, a master wordsmith who knows his history.’ The Footy Almanac

‘It’s a rollicking great story, written in the vernacular of the time, and one that has a ring of authenticity about it.’ Reading Matters

‘This is a first-class book written by a talented author and is highly recommended.’ Cricket Web

‘You don’t need to love boxing, or indeed to know anything about boxing, to love this book. I have no hesitation recommending The Sawdust House to all folk who value books and reading. It’s a novel that is as interesting as it is beautifully written and realised.’ Fremantle Shipping News 

‘Whish-Wilson portrays jaw-droppingly good prose … Whish-Wilson’s portrayal of Sullivan, his milieu, the people he meets and the events he has been part of is both gripping and, at times, intensely moving.’ Pulp Curry

‘This work of historical fiction is masterfully written … I highly recommend this absolutely amazing feat of storytelling!’ Fran Hoffman

The Sawdust House is a Crime Novel by David Whish-Wilson, published in 2022


  • 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize (Longlisted 2022)
  • Western Australian Writer’s Fellowship (Shortlisted 2021)